Diesel Lovin’ VW Reveals Aggressive Electric Vehicle Plan

· · 8 years ago

Volkswagen, along with other European auto companies, has long proclaimed diesels as the best fuel saving alternative. True, diesels are efficient and practical, but in the U.S., they have a reputation of being noisy and smelly. VW has worked hard to overcome that image with cars like the Jetta TDI but now are apparently changing direction (although they still like diesels).

During a press conference last month at its Electronics Research Lab in Palo Alto, California, Volkswagen chairman Dr. Martin Winterkorn said, “In the future, the heart of Volkswagen will also beat with electricity.” And in an opaque reference to the original Beetle, Winterkorn told the gathered media that “Volkswagen is working on the electric car for everyone.” He added that hybrid and electric vehicles will account for three percent of the German carmaker’s global sales by 2018.

Winterkorn stated that, “2013 will be a key year, with the launch of all-electric vehicles such as the E-Up! and the E-Golf. Either one will be the first full electric by 2013.”

Neither Dr. Winterkorn nor other VW officials at the press conference provided many details about either vehicle, but here’s what we know.

E-Up!

The E-Up! made its first appearance at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show as a concept vehicle. It’s a two-door electric-city car with 3+1 seating: The front passenger seat is placed forward of the driver’s seat, allowing adequate room for a rear seat passenger. There is less legroom behind the “normally” positioned driver’s seat; the space here is designed as a spare seat.

Certainly concept car features such as roof solar cells and touch-screen based HMI (Human Machine Interface) won’t be offered on a production version, but the concept’s electric powertrain is likely close to what will debut for consumers.

The E-Up’s front wheels are driven by a 60 kW electric motor that generates a hefty 155 lbs.-ft. of torque. The motor, combined with a low curb weight of 2,392 pounds, can accelerate the car to 60 mph from stop in about 11 seconds and has a top speed of 84 mph. A quick-charging 18 kWh Li-ion battery pack can be charged to up to 80 percent of its total capacity within an hour and provides an approximate 130-mile driving range.

More EVs: Golf, Jetta and Passat

It would seem that with 500 E-Golfs currently being tested, and increased to a 5,000 test-car fleet, it is the most likely of the two EVs to be offered in 2013. Power for VW’s electrified version of its best-selling model is provided by a 26.5 kWh capacity lithium-ion battery pack located in the floorpan’s middle tunnel. The battery pack is good for a maximum range of 93 miles Winterkorn said.

Volkswagen has released no details on the expected Jetta and Passat EVs but Winterkorn revealed that a small number of the e-Tron, Audi’s first all-electric car, will be launched at the end of 2012. Over at Porsche, three electric Boxsters are being built and are scheduled for testing next year.

Why this emphasis on electric and hybrid vehicles by Volkswagen? Simply, governments tightening rules to cut emissions. For example, in California, the largest U.S. car market, the state Air Resources Board has mandated that the largest carmakers by volume must sell about 60,000 plug-in hybrids and electric cars combined from model years 2012 through 2014.

VW’s ambitions are to nearly triple its share in the U.S., the world’s second-biggest auto market, to six percent by 2018 and increase sales to one million cars, including 200,000 Audi luxury vehicles. To meet the California dictate the automaker will indeed have to make the “electric car for everyone.”

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